Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem will be squaring off for the second time in their careers when they battle for a spot in the title match of the Argentina Open on Saturday. Their only previous meeting came in the second round of the 2014 French Open, where Nadal coasted to a 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 victory. Two seasons later, Thiem now owns three ATP titles to his credit, all of the 250-point variety on outdoor clay (which is the same scenario in Buenos Aires). The 22-year-old Austrian is up to No. 19 in the world and appears to be climbing thanks to victories this week over Pablo Carreno Busta, Gastao Elias, and Dusan Lajovic. Check out the Nadal vs Thiem H2H.
“It was a quite solid performance today,” Thiem wrote on Facebook after his defeat of Lajovic. “My game was way better then last time. The first set was well played from both of us. I managed to take the control over the match by breaking him. Today’s performance was by far my best here in Buenos Aires, although playing a friend and doublespartner is always tough. Nevertheless I am really excited about moving into the semifinals, where I need to play my best tennis.”
Of course he will have to play his best if he wants to advance, as it is none other than Nadal on the other side of the net. Far from dominant but easily good enough to have advanced so far, Nadal’s week includes victories over Juan Monaco (6-4, 6-4) and Paolo Lorenzi (7-6(3), 6-2). The fifth-ranked Spaniard is two wins away from a second consecutive triumph at the Argentina Open.
Given Thiem’s form and Nadal’s relatively mediocre tennis of late, this one should be more competitive than it may look on paper. But opponents with one-handed backhands have never fared well against the 14-time major champion. Even Stan Wawrinka’s record against Nadal is abysmal despite a couple of recent wins in that head-to-head series. And Wawrinka owns arguably the best one-hander on tour. Thiem’s is flashy but inconsistent. In what is sure to be a physical baseline battle, Nadal will likely wear down his younger adversary in the end.
Prediction – Nadal in three sets